Part 8: Fall 2018 Labs

137 Top Hat in Canvas

Top Hat, part of the Learn@UW suite of learning technologies, is a student response system (SRS) that is integrated in Canvas. It can help instructors measure student comprehension, gauge reactions to a topic, and foster discussion throughout the course of a lecture. At the October 26, 2018 Active Teaching Lab, participants exchanged ways to enrich teaching and keep students engaged during lectures. Attendees also shared ways to use Top Hat to assess and adjust the pace of a course to promote student success.


  • When starting out in Top Hat, prepare questions beforehand, and be methodical with the process. Consider what questions to ask, when to ask them, and what response options to include. Once comfortable in Top Hat, add some questions on the fly in class to maximize unanticipated teaching moments.
  • Use response accuracy to assess whether students are ready to move on. Responses that are all over the map are just as informative to the instructor as everyone getting it right. 
  • Design questions that push students to show process rather than just a result. For example, ask them to point out the error in a table of information or a sequence of steps. 
  • Focus on questions that encourage real-world application more so than mere fact memorization.
  • Open a topic with a question that uncovers common misconceptions to pique the interest of students.
  • Choose question types (such as the world cloud generator) that don’t provide answer choices for a more accurate representation of student knowledge compared to multiple choice questions.
  • Pose questions in an unpredictable time frame (pop questions) to encourage students to engage and pay attention throughout the lecture and promote accountability.
  • Use Top Hat at the beginning of class to review concepts from the previous class in a low-stakes manner that nevertheless communicates the need to come to class prepared.

For more information on Top Hat, visit the session’s activity sheet and handout on using Top Hat to engage students.


The Active Teaching Lab is a Faculty Engagement program with sessions held on Thursdays from 1:00-2:00pm (room 302) and Fridays from 8:30-9:45am (room 120) in the Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.) during fall 2018. Check out upcoming Labs or read the recaps from past Labs. We build interdisciplinary conversations that are more emergent than a presenter and more dynamic than a panel — a conversation with colleagues sharing challenges, solutions, and experiments on topics selected by a variety of stakeholders.

Sign up for regular Lab announcements by sending an email to


Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

Share This Book